sparkler-839806_1920

The Day I Gave The Dress Away

Only divine, shake-me-free mercy allowed me to give this dress away. 

Is nine years a long time? Nine years is how long this little red dress hung on the end in the closet. It was a precious sister gift during the one bliss, blessed pregnancy God gave me. 

But no daughter ever came and I never quite knew what to do with that silky-soft, rosy-red dress. 

As time passed, the dress became the sign of both hope and loss. When girlfriends had girls, I’d peek in the closet and ponder setting it free. But Don’t give up hope or admit defeat-keep buzzing-came to mind while I caressed the soft, little dress. 

No, I’d buy a gift, and slide that door shut again.

And I kept knocking- and pounding-on heaven’s door. For more reward, more womb’s fruitfor a whole quiver-full, I’d pray. For these best of earth’s comforts, I buzzed and I pressed. A bee at the window, I clamored for sweetness, and boomed.

But He said,“Not that way! All, all in vain, You weary out wings and bruise your head.” Then came that day last June. 

The day I gave that dress away was the day sweet niece Ruth was born. The time was right, so God caught me up, pressing, buzzing at the windowpane. He caught me up and shook me out and He gently let me go. 

Then I gave the dress away and out now to real sweetness I gaily go

*   *   *   *   *   


Is nine years a long time? Maybe it’s a minute compared to your hours pressing on the windowpane. And maybe the rosy-red dress is feather-light in view of your loss. Whatever your hope, however deep your pain, may you too know God’s gentle hand, catching you up, shaking you out, to help you pitch your hopes heaven-high

The LORD is good to the one who hopes in Him, to the one who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25

The Day I Gave The Dress Away

The day I gave the dress away
Hope wasn’t lost but found.
That same night two boys played
Rolling happy on the ground.

Sons that came two different ways;
One from the heart and one from the womb.
But barren came back, and the dress, 
All that was left of hope deferred, entombed.

Mercy-more years, more hope deferred-
Took me down to the frozen centre.
A cycle of months, and still no third,
Heaven’s door my knock couldn’t enter. 

(Clamor, buzz at window pane
I did so much I bruised,
Left to my own will
I’d be dead at the sill…)

It is for mighty saints– for
You and me-this way ’round Mount Pain
So up we pitch up our longing great; for
Better reward, deeper joy, and more gain.
We toss hope up-He catches it and us, 
Then gently shakes us free
To set hope our in Him heaven-high.
Because-we know-He told us why:

“Then you will know that I am the Lord

those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

Isaiah 49:23


*The Day I Gave the Dress Away was inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Five Sonnets. Lines in italics are directly from the sonnets.

The five are a stunningly beautiful depiction about death of what’s dear and the climb up the mountain of pain that follows, and how finally we can be freed to pitch our hopes heaven-high.  
sparkler-839806_1920

When Pain Gets Proud

God knows your pain. 

He holds your tears in his bottle. 

Your name is engraved on the palm of his hand. 

Yes, right. I’m sure. And I’d hug, nod and grimace my way through these and dozens of similar sympathetic and kind encouragements.

Then I’d walk away from my would-be-comforters thinking, You’ll never know. You can’t understand my pain. 

Those words from you-you mother of five, holding your third sweet surprise-don’t console. Your words are water off a duck’s back. They don’t bring comfort. And not just your words, but the words from the kind widows and single sisters and the concerned co-workers. None can know my sorrow. 

Each heart knows it’s own bitterness, the Proverb says. But that’s no excuse to let common-to-man sadness morph into self-righteous pride. Here’s how that happens. 


Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen

Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, [by] casting all your cares upon him, for he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:5-7

The Devil, the Accuser, would love to separate us from God and the grace He gives to the humble. One of his big guns is to tempt us to doubt God’s love. Did God really say? Does Job fear God for no reason? He’d have us believe God doesn’t really care about us. Pain makes us easy prey when it leaves us preoccupied with ourselves. Nobody knows my sorrow.


Suffering can push us to God, refine us and result in praise, glory and honor when Christ comes again. It can help us plumb the depths of God’s love and rely on it more fully. The fellowship of sharing Christ’s sufferings is a sweet, sweet fellowship. But we forfeit the grace that could be ours.

We let pain puff us up and pull us away from the God of all comfort and the Body he lovingly equips to bind up our wounds. No one, we think, has felt the pain of my loss, abuse, miscarriage, marital strife or ___. Therefore, we reason, no one is qualified to comfort me.  

Marshall Segal’s assessment of the pain-pride link is so insightful. Segal writes:

Pain becomes proud because it believes no one else understands. No one feels what I feel. And so pain distances itself from anyone who might try and speak into its suffering. But pain afflicts itself even more the farther it separates itself from others. God has given us himself, his word, and each other to produce faith, and even joy, in the midst of pain, even the most severe and unique pain. 

One test to determine whether our pain is producing pride is to ask how we respond to encouragement from others, maybe especially from other believers who don’t understand our pain. Are we willing to hear the word and hope of God from someone who has not experienced or cannot comprehend our current suffering? If we’re unwilling, then pain has driven us into isolation, and Satan’s succeeding in his purpose for your suffering.

The humble let themselves be comforted. They take hugs. Paul didn’t let his pain isolate. I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, Paul wrote to Philemon (1:7). Aristarchus, Mark and Jesus, called Justus brought him comfort, too (Colossians 4:10-11).

Are you willing to let the Body do its healing work? Or will you let Satan succeed in his purpose? Will you humble allow God’s people to speak His healing, comforting truth into your pain? Or will you proud stiff-arm his hug? 

The Two Sides Of Pride


1. My Pain’s Worse Than Your Pain

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

This might not sound like it has anything to do with your pain or your pride. But it might. 

After a hard church parting and a decade of pain-filled estrangement, overlapping with more years that that of infertility, I now see how I used my pain to set myself apart and above. My year after year without pregnancy, the gut-wrenching loss of a dear church family and the mistreatment and injustice of it all. Clearly, my pain was worse. 

Pride is competitive. And since I can be too, my pain went mutant. Pride wanted to be the center of attention, so pride- so I– byway of pain, set myself above others’ others pain and their comfort. And, as Lewis said, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. 

2. Woe Is My Pity

But, you say, I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, so how can my pain possibly be proud? Only God knows your heart. But I know that there is another side of the proud coin. 

If one side is the boasting, I suffered more side, than the other side is the self-pitying side. It’s the side that says, This shouldn’t be happening to me, I don’t deserve this

Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but heroes.  (John Piper, Desiring God)

Ultimately either side of pride can separate us, both from God and from others. Both sides won’t hear God’s comforting voice. Pride would silence the well-instructed tongue, he gives others, to know the word that sustains the weary (Isaiah 50:4). It would rather wallow than rejoice and look down instead of lifting eyes to the heavens, from where help comes. 

A God-Honoring Way Out


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort others in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

It is true that no one on earth has or will ever experience exactly my own little batch of suffering. But that’s okay. No one needs to have walked in my exact shoes to be able to offer me the exact right balm for my broken soul. 

That’s because God already gave the exact right balm for my soul: He spoke his Word. Marshall Segal notes,  

God wrote a book to overcome all of [the] inevitable ignorance and insensitivity. With the Bible, people can bring you the always-relevant wisdom and hope of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God.

And the all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God gave gifts to men. One of the gifts he gave was encouragement. Another, comfort. Another, teaching. And if, in proud pain, I stiff-arm the members of the Body he gave to comfort me, I forfeit those gifts. 

When we stiff arm His Body, we fall far short of His glory. Because, ultimately, pride is a worship issue. When we push away those who’d speak God’s word to us, we’re thinking more about ourselves and our pain, than of bringing glory to our God. Rather than glorify him in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15), we wallow. 

The only way out of that proud mud is to think less of ourselves and more of God. The rivers of self-forgetfulness flow down from the Godward heights of worship. He alone is worthy of all worship and praise…Therefore, God’s children cannot be ambivalent about pride. We must hate it and hunt it down until it’s dead. (Jason Meyer, Killjoys)

Hunting down pride means stalking it to the strangest of places, like our pain. And killing it means taking up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). And that sword, the Word, might very well be wielded by a saint who doesn’t know your sorrow. 

But who knows One who does. 

Because, Nobody knows but Jesus. 


Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…

Isaiah 53:4a